She is remembered across the world as the woman who was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
On Oct. 5, hundreds came from across the United States to remember Fannie Lou Hamer, a tireless civil rights advocate during her lifetime, at the unveiling of a statue built in her honor in her hometown of Ruleville, Miss.
“What was it James Brown sang? I feel good,” Hamer’s daughter, Vergie Hamer Faulkner, said on seeing her mother’s statue, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Hamer was born Fannie Lou Townsend on Oct. 6, 1917, to sharecroppers. She later worked as a sharecropper and timekeeper on a plantation in Sunflower County, Miss. She died March 14, 1977.
Many remember Hamer for her unstinting passion for civil and human rights, equality and justice. Her activism probably began in 1962 when she decided to go register to vote and was told she would have to leave the plantation where she had lived and worked for 18 years.
“I didn’t go register for you sir, I did it for myself,” Hamer challenged her boss W. D. Marlowe, according to the statue committee’s website.
From then on she dedicated herself to registering Black voters and other social causes, and suffered imprisonment, beatings and assassination attempts. But she persevered.
Hamer helped organize the racially diverse Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the seating of an all-White Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
Her defining speech before the assembly was so eloquent and so fiery that President Lyndon Johnson called a press conference to try and divert attention away from her. But national networks later ran her speech in its entirety and a national audience sat spellbound by her conviction and her truths.
Speaking of her beating at the hands of highway patrolmen in Winona she asked, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”
Such oratorical skill and fearlessness seemed to belie her beginnings.
“Fannie Lou Hamer went from being a sharecropper, born and raised in one of the most racist and bigoted areas in our country, to becoming a strong, black female who was so articulate and such an incredible motivator,” said Reena Evers-Everette, the daughter of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, as quoted by TheGrio.com. “She changed the course of history especially in the field of politics and the Democratic Party.”